This happened a couple of months ago, and I only remembered to write about it now (thanks to my friends on an online community).
Remember the innovative ‘Blogsplash’ conducted by Fiona Robyn (author of ‘The Most Beautiful Thing’)? My contribution to the Blogsplash was a little story about a touching incident that took place on my last trip to India. I’m very glad to say that of all the entries, mine was chosen as the top entry!
I can proudly and quite unashamedly proclaim that I’m a sucker for chick-lit and romance (er, novels, that is).
A friend was leaving on vacation, and very sweetly offered me two of her novels, that I grabbed outright.
So first, I read ‘The Notebook’ by Nicholas Sparks. I was not expecting much more than a light and refreshing read, and I have to say it proved to be more than that. It was a typically quick read, replete with romance and emotions, suspense and drama. All in all, quite an enjoyable book. Leaves one wanting to either fall in love, or envelope someone special in a bear-hug, and never let go.
****Spoiler alert**** I wonder if this Bollywood movie was made AFTER or BEFORE the book was released?!!!
Then I grabbed ‘A Walk to Remember‘. I was expecting to see the same amount of mush in this book, but very interestingly, I found a lot of humour instead. (Now, if I’m a sucker for romance, then I’m an even bigger sucker for humour :-)) The author does warn you in the prologue. He says,the book will first make you laugh, then cry. I wholly agree. You will have more than a few laughs in the first half of the book, and even the second half, despite being sad, is extremely sweet. The book reminds one of the innocence and freshness of youth 🙂
Rating: 3.5/5 (enjoyed the humour)
And yesterday, I happened to get another book from the library. I had reserved ‘Atlas Shrugged‘ after reading a FB message by Rakesh (and loads of comments from our usual comment monsters :lol:) and I THOUGHT I was going to collect this book, but happened to bring home ‘Dear John’ instead.
Now, I confess felt very slightly bored, at the beginning of the book. However, it rapidly picked up pace, and I found myself, wanting to finish it before the day ended. And I did 🙂 (Kind courtesy: Little brat who very sweetly decided to keep himself occupied with winding his microphone around his hands and legs!!!!)
The synopsis of the book certainly does not do justice to the plot. This is not the usual ‘love story’.
For one, the characters in the book have been etched so beautifully, that you feel their love, their anxiety and their pain. They are very real.
Secondly, it gives one a glimpse into the ugly face of War, and how troops deputed in war zones actually spend their life. One actually ponders about the futility of it all.
And third, the book is not just about the love between a man and a woman, but also about the delicate relationship between a father and son. I loved the way this was brought out, in a very subtle and tender way.
To me, the character that stands out the MOST, is one that is mentioned neither on the back-cover nor the website. It is that of the Father of the protagonist. He is a simple, good man, who lives his life exactly the same way each day, but is a terrible social misfit. The father suffers from autism, and the way he reaches out to his son, in his own unique manner, twists and wrings your heart!!
Every character is true to life, and in those couple of hours spent on reading the book, one actually understands WHY each character takes the decisions he/she does, and how it seems both logical yet sad.
You must read the book, to FEEL what this is about.
I loved it, and I think it has made me more understanding of how a developmental problem can affect the lives of the person and his/her family and loved ones.
A note of caution : .This is a heart-wrenching book. It left me incredibly sad and dejected, wondering why life cannot be more simple. So, please save this for a long weekend, where you can recover and bounce back to your happy self 🙂 before the week begins again.
Rating: 4/5 (Exquisite characterisation)
Something I found to be a common undercurrent in all three books, was the almost naive, but constant emphasis on ‘true and ever-lasting love‘ (assuming, there is such a thing!).
I also liked the fact that the author managed to keep the ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ from not jumping into bed, at the drop of a hat (or anything else for that matter). I understand that can be quite a put-off for a Mills & Boon fan 😈 😆 but it made ‘love‘ seem more special. Old-fashioned, perhaps. But ‘sacred‘ nevertheless.
As for the language and quality of writing, I was not expecting much, being ‘romance’ and ‘chick-lit’ and all. And neither am I into reading ‘difficult’ books (aka, I can’t understand them 😛 I’d much rather read a simple easily understandable sentence, rather than a paragraph full of words that contain 4 or more syllables! 😆 So yes, the language was simple, engrossing, and made all the books an entertaining read.
(Apologies for having to bombard you with this – but *** A gentle reminder : If you liked my earlier post titled ‘Past Promises, Forgotten Futures’, then please Vote to promote it on Indiblogger, here:http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=34664 *** Thanks *** And again, do vote for a post, ONLY if you like it)
I picked up the book, and only a few pages into the story, I could not… absolutely could not.. put it down. I took a couple of ‘essential’ breaks 😉 but was otherwise hooked onto it completely.
The book is the narration of the Mahabharatha, seen through the eyes of Draupadi.
I’ve always loved reading mythology, Indian and otherwise. To me, reading this book was like a flashback of a movie seen in childhood, but this time, in technicolour 🙂
It isn’t boring, I assure you. And for once, I have read a book that has left me with absolutely no words of criticism or nit-picking!
I love the way the author has humanised (is there such a word?!) the characters. She turns a mythological Draupadi into a living, breathing woman! In this character called Draupadi, you will probably see a piece of yourself. Or others you know.
It makes one realise Draupadi was not an average person, specifically a woman, whose life revolved around cooking, keeping house and breeding!!
Draupadi is beautiful, confident woman, with higher aspirations, but is typically trapped in a man’s world. She is intelligent, fully aware of both her ‘desires’ and ‘limitations’. She realises ‘a woman’s place’ in this world, and abides by it.
I loved the way Draupadi beseeches to Arjun, to stop her from being ‘shared’ by his brothers, and where he subsequently redirects his fury and frustration on her, as if she were the culprit, not the victim!! Isn’t that exactly what happens even in the modern day world? In the case of rape, the first reaction is that the victim must have done something, to provoke it.
What shocked me though, was that since Draupadi was to be ‘shared by her five husbands’ – one husband a year, Vyasa ‘blessed‘ her with a ‘boon to become a virgin every time she went to her next husband‘. I almost felt the bile rising in my throat, as I read this. Draupadi or Divakaruni (the author) rightly says, this is a boon, made very conveniently, for the men, and not for Draupadi.
The delicate relationship of mutual mistrust between Draupadi and Kunti is described in such a simple, practical manner. It makes one realise why MILs and DILs co-exist the way they do 😉
Draupadi herself is a survivor. She does not simply make her mark in her household. She tries her best to not allow any adversary into ‘her’ palace, where SHE is the Chief Queen.
I enjoyed the way Draupadi tried to make amends to Karna, for her insult to him at the Swayamvar, but where he refuses to be mollified, and yet, he does his best to protect her from harm, when the court broke into pandemonium!
There is a brief moment where Draupadi (in this book) admits to not being very maternal. She says being a wife to five men, and stately duties sapped her, and she was more than happy, to have her nanny take the children off her hands. Why are ‘women’, specifically in Indian society expected to ‘want’ to take care of children? Why is it not a choice? If a woman does not enjoy feeding her child, does that make her a bad mother? Do we, as a society, have the maturity to realise that a Mother is also an INDIVIDUAL who might simply yearn for more in life, than mundane chores?!
I’ve encountered very severe reaction from a couple of friends whom I sometimes call to watch a movie or something over the weekend. Their reaction is one shock – ‘How can I leave my family, that too on the weekend?’ Its not like I’m asking them to elope!! They feel guilty to even ‘want’ to dedicate some time to themselves. Earlier, I used to feel sorry for such women, who ‘constrain’ themselves. Now, though, I feel sorry for the handful of ‘Draupadi’s that remain, for wanting ‘more’. Strange as it may sound, it is they who are constrained by their wants!
Nevertheless, what struck me most, was the fact that despite being foretold her future, she did not stop it ‘because of the circumstances’.
Draupadi could have chosen Karna over Arjun. She did not. (Which by the way, makes the reader feel really bad for Karna, who was always the subject of unfair treatment. In colloquial language, Karna got a bad deal!)
She could have given up her life, rather than be a Queen to five Kings. She did not.
Which made me wonder, is Life about Destiny or about Choices? All my life, I thought it was Destiny. Today, somehow, I think, it is probably not as simple as that.
The book isn’t without humour either. There is a reference to Yudhishtra being ‘blissfully unaware’ that people could mean them harm. And to Bheem’s plate being piled higher than the other brothers. It all made them very HUMAN. There is a Yudhistra in each of us. A Bheem too. Some brave ones even have a piece of Arjuna in them.
There were some extremely distressing moments as well. Like, the murder of Abhimanyu. Or that of Karna. Both these ‘hunks’ 😉 were killed unfairly. What really moved me, was the description of young Abhimanyu staring in ‘disbelief’ at the the unfair play by those whom he had always respected.
Caution: This book is not for the judgemental reader. You read, you nod either in agreement or disagreement, and you move on. If one were to start judging any of the characters as moral or immoral, cowardly or brave… then, IMHO, it defeats the purpose of the book. Any book, perhaps.
This book, is the life of a woman. Of her aspirations, her boundaries and her will. One cannot help wondering how similar it is to the story of a woman in today’s world. Not much has changed over the centuries, has it??!!!
I leave you with some snippets from the book…
– This one: ‘Between Yudhistra and Krishna, a woman cannot even enjoy being in misery!’ LOL! I loved that line!
– Or this one: ‘There is a strange freedom in realising one is not that important!’
– Or this: Krishna says to Dhritharashtra: ‘If you had believed all (Kauravas and Pandavas) were YOURS TO LOVE, this war would have never taken place’. Isn’t this exactly what we need today? Look at the Ayodhya issue. If only we believed we were truly ‘one’ – would there ever be bloodshed?!!
The book is filled with glorious and inglorious incidents from the past, but in that, one can clearly draw references to today, and even to the future!!
I hope this inspires you enough to grab a copy of the book!!
‘…There is no right way to deal with the loss of a beloved son. Marion and Tom are doing their dignified best, but their own relationship is taking a battering. So when a fierce, strange woman turns up and demands to see the dead boy, Marion is almost glad of the distraction. Against Tom’s wishes, she determines to find out more about her son’s life away from home. The quest takes her out of her comfortable, conventional world to a shabby office in East London, and a series of shocks…’
This is the story of Marion, whose son dies all of a sudden, soon after which she gets to know about his shocking secret. A secret that changes the course of her life.
But in the process, it also opens up her mind – from a society where ‘love’ is clearly defined to ‘acceptance’ of other uncommon forms of love. It opens her heart and home to a woman she would have normally scorned or avoided like the plague.
It deals with lesbian couples and their relationship. And how an average person cannot comprehend this sort of love, and sexual relationship. Most importantly, the story does not try to ‘change’ the lesbian couple into a ‘normal’ one. Nor does it try to bring about a radical change in the mindset of the ‘normal’ couple. They live, each to themselves, in an extremely mature equation, managing to give due respect to each other, for whatever they are!!
I cannot reveal any more in this space, as it would spoil your experience of reading the book (if you do intend to read it, that is!!)
The author has handled the fragile relationship between the husband and wife. Trust, suspicion, sorrow, love… it is a roller coaster ride, typical of any relation, and the author has done a very good job of this.
But most of all, I loved the way the mother finally finds her peace.
The cover of the book was unsuspectingly simple. The ‘fable’ started off just like some childrens’s fiction, but somewhere down the line, the storyline went from fiction to dreadful reality. An attempt to summarise this story is an injustice to this beautiful book. However, for the benefit of my friends whom I beg, to read this book, here is a summary…
An influential family living in Berlin is suddenly moved to the outskirts of Poland because the father has been transferred on some important military assignment. The children, Bruno and Gretel, resist the idea very much, and hate moving away from their luxurious life and friends.
They find their new surroundings at Camp ‘Out-With’ morbid and eerie – with no better company than that of the army officials – i.e.,their father’s colleaues. On the other side of the fence beyond their house however, there live many many men and young boys, all clothed in striped pyjamas, and their heads tonsured. On a couple of occasions, the family hear the officers talking to the people in pyjamas, in strong language, never heard before. Bruno however, strongly believes that his father can never do any wrong.
One day, Bruno accidentally comes across one of the little boys, named Shmuel, and befriends him. They begin meeting secretly at the fence, and gradually become close friends. However, neither crosses the fence ever, for fear of the officers. They never play games together, as children of their age would normally do. Instead, they spend time talking, sharing thoughts and memories of their earlier happy life. Shmuel describes how his family was separated, and brought into this camp, and how people suddenly go missing from here. Bruno tells him about his old school, close friends (whose names, he strangely keeps forgetting) and invites him to visit sometime in the future. Bruno’s head gets infected with lice, and one day, he has to be tonsured as well. Shmuel remarks that they looked very similar now, only one was thin and the other , healthy !
As Bruno slowly settles into his new home, his parents are unhappy with bringing up the children here, and decide to send them back to Berlin. So Bruno decides to pay a last visit to Shmuel. When they meet that day, Shmuel seems terribly downcast, because his father has disappeared ! Bruno promises to help search for him. They decide to meet the next afternoon to play atleast a little while, and to search for the father.
It rains ceaselessly the next morning, and Bruno is worried that he won’t be able to keep up his promise. However, the rain does finally stop, and Bruno goes as fast as he can, to the fence. Shmuel is eagerly waiting for him, and with him, is an extra pair of striped pyjamas. Bruno gets into these, and enters the other side of the fence. The harsh reality hits him, that this side of the fence wasn’t like he had imagined it to be. People just gathered around in groups, and looked downcast, desolate and bereft of all hope.
Bruno and Shmuel look everywhere, but cannot find the father. Bruno gets worried that its getting late, and he should be heading back to the fence, to get home in time for a good, hot dinner. When suddenly, a lot of officers gather around a group of people, and the two boys are drowned in the crowd. Shmuel says that sometimes, people were sent on such long marches, and never returned. Bruno is tempted to reveal to the officers, that his father heads the army unit, but is afraid that they would get into trouble for having crossed the fence.
It begins raining, and the officers direct the group to march towards a very big room. Bruno is too terrified to speak, and amidst all the commotion, he and Shmuel enter the room, and find it very warm. Bruno thinks this is to shelter them until the rain stops. The room gets crammed with the people in pyjamas, and suddenly the doors are shut, the room gets hotter and hotter and everybody begins screaming and crying. Not knowing what to do, and where to run, Bruno holds Shmuel’s hand very tightly. In that moment, he realises a bonding with Shmuel and does not let go of his best friend’s hand, till the end.
Bruno’s family never see him again. His father finds the hole in the fence (small enough for a little boy to enter) one day, and seeing a small pile of his son’s clothes, realises what might have happened.
If this story tugged at the strings of your heart, please do read: “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” by John Boyne. And please forgive me for any errors in the above summary.